I appreciate Andy's response to explain the reasoning behind his vote. However, the only point that I agree with is the "reasonable compromise" aspect. It looked like certain commissioners may have not budged on using winter averages, so the 3,000-gallon floor at least moderates the effect on some people.Hi, Adrian: I saw your post on your blog re the recent water mechanism and just wanted to point out that there are some inaccuracies, the correction of which might make you feel better (or may not!). I'm not sure how to post to the blog (I'm not much of a blogger), but here they are, for what it's worth:
- The baseline is winter '05-'06, not '06-'07.
- There is a first tier of 3,000 gallons per month that will be charged at the lowest rate, thereby protecting those who were conserving in '05-'06; after one has used that amount up then your cost will increase in tier prices, based on your winter average.
- Larger users will pay more because they will more quickly move up the tiers to the highest-priced tier, tier 4.
- For those whose circumstances have changed since '05-'06 (e.g., have added a child to the household) there is an appeal process.
- The committee chose the winter average approach because, they reasoned, this was when people were not using discretionary water to water yards but were using water that was essential to the size of their households for drinking, cooking, washing etc. The summer spike is due to people watering their yards, and the new mechanism is designed to try to calm that spike (as the summer is when we fall most behind in our rainfall).I was not on the committee and had some problems with just using the straight winter average from the first gallons of use because it would have punished light users. I think the 3,000 gallons as a first block was a reasonable compromise. There is no perfect system, and we will try this for this year and then either tweak it or look for a different one. But I guess we have to start somewhere.Best,Andy
My whole beef is with the winter average and its effect of charging different fees to households using the same amount of water. Andy explains that the point of the average was to find the amount of the water essential to the household, but this is flawed reasoning that does not justify such a plan. Different households have different lifestyles and different plumbing. What the recent drought has taught us is that water uses and plumbing fixtures inside our houses make a huge difference in our consumption. Let me explain.
Some households use water for cooking, and some don't. Some use water for laundry, and some households use laundromats. Some houses have older toilets that use more gallons per flush. Some people (like myself) take two showers a day, and we know that many Athenians take only two per week. Also, some households use plenty of water for irrigation even during the winter. If we say that the winter average is essential, we are indeed rewarding those who waste water during the winter. We are deeming old, inefficient plumbing fixtures essential, and we are deeming it unessential for people who did not wash clothes or cook at home to begin doing so. An individual household's winter water usage does not reflect household needs.
A uniform pricing tier would encourage everyone to adopt efficient usage practices at home. Commissioner Hoard's poverty anecdote was completely irrelevant because the plan voted on bases prices for everyone, not just poor families, on their past usage. If we want to base prices on household needs, then perhaps we should decide on an allotment per person and allow each ratepayer to report the number of people in the household. Yes, that system would be subject to abuse, but the actual plan is no better.
I strongly disagree that the administrative process for appealing based on changed circumstances is appropriate. It is costly to the government and costly to the ratepayers. If the utilities department were to hear from everyone with changed circumstances, they would be overwhelmed; they are being called upon to perform a new function at a cost to the system. And the ratepayers who most need the relief are likely too busy working extra jobs to make ends meet, or they might not understand that they are even entitled to relief or how to pursue it. An investment of time is needed by both sides to process a request that may make a difference of only a few dollars per year. This is inefficient government and a burden on ratepayers.
There is also the complication of giving the utilities department the burden of reviewing records and calculating the winter average. And what about the water accounts that didn't exist in '05-'06? What about the thousands of households without their own water meter because they are part of an apartment complex? Once again, the county commission has taken a simple idea -- this time, tiered water pricing -- and made it incredibly complicated.